As Ukrainians battle a Russian invasion, members of the Ukrainian Canadian community say people here who want to help just need a few dollars, some media savvy — or even a Sharpie and a bit of poster board.
Mariya Lesiv, an associate professor of folklore at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., says her friends and family back home in Ukraine can see the footage of the rallies and demonstrations held all over Canada, even in the tiniest, most far-flung towns.
“For people to realize that the whole world is thinking about them, that these small communities, these small towns are having rallies in support of the people of Ukraine, it’s really comforting. It boosts their morale,” Lesiv said in an interview Monday.
Lesiv moved to Canada from western Ukraine in 2003 to go to graduate school. She said all of her family — her parents, her siblings, her nine-year-old nephew — are still in Ukraine, wondering what will happen.
So far it’s been relatively safe where her family is, she said, “but of course, things change very rapidly and we don’t know how long that safety will last for.”
Russia began its assault on Thursday, bombing the capital of Kyiv and forcing residents to flee to the western part of the country or set up camp in subway stations and car parks in an effort to avoid the explosions. Leaders across the globe have condemned the attacks, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Lesiv said Canadians wanting to help Ukrainians could donate to the Canadian Red Cross, noting Ottawa has vowed to match every dollar to a maximum of $10 million. Even $20 can support a few people for a couple of days, she said.
Canadians can also help Ukrainians fight the battle of disinformation waged by Russian authorities, she said.
Valentyna Shapovalova, who studies Russian disinformation at the University of Copenhagen, agrees. The doctoral student said Monday that Russia is pushing several false narratives about Ukraine through state and social media in an effort to drum up public support for its actions.
These falsehoods include claims that the Ukrainian government is a Nazi regime, undemocratically imposed upon its people by Western countries and NATO. Russia is trying to convince its citizens — and the world — that it has stormed Ukraine in an effort to free its citizens, and that it’s a kind of peacekeeping mission, Shapovalova said.
The Russian government has also claimed it is not targeting civilians, which she said is false. On Monday, for example, The Associated Press reported that social media video from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, showed residential areas being shelled, with apartment buildings shaken by repeated, powerful blasts. Authorities in Kharkiv said at least seven people had been killed and dozens injured. They warned that casualties could be far higher.